By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A top-10 finish for Todd Gilliland at Darlington Raceway kept the Front Row Motorsports driver above the Playoff cutline.
When the caution waved on lap 123, Gilliland brought his No. 38 Black’s Tire Service Ford F-150 to pit road for four fresh tires from 11th on track. Following pit stops and the on-track choose area, he picked up four positions in the running order.
Gilliland quietly ran inside the top-10 for the next 15 laps. Another caution saw many of the race leaders duck onto pit road while the Sherrills Ford, N.C. native stayed on track. Gilliland lined up fourth for the overtime restart.
In the chaotic overtime restart, Gilliland was taken three-wide. While his Ford Performance teammate Ben Rhodes took the lead, and the victory, the 20-year-old slid backward. Gilliland battled with his former Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Christian Eckes and Raphael Lessard in the two-lap shootout. When the checkered flag waved, he crossed the line in seventh.
“I’m happy we are on the plus side of the cut line at least,” admitted Gilliland. “We pretty much have 10 spots to give up to the 19 (Derek Kraus) and I really believe we can outrun them and even contend for a win at Richmond. We’re really confident in what we’ve got going there.
“This was not the race we really wanted today. We just started on the splitter insanely hard. We’d be okay on the long run, but just give up so much. It wasn’t the day we wanted, but we really didn’t lose massive points to the cut line and we’ve got one more race to make it all happen.
“I have to thank Ricky Benton and Black’s Tire, Front Row Motorsports, Ford and all our sponsors throughout the season. We’re going to give it our all at Richmond and hopefully go run for a championship.”
Gilliland didn’t break into the top-10 until the second stage. Due to the metric qualifying formula, he started the South Carolina Education Lottery 200 in 15th.
It was the first race for Gilliland at the track nicknamed ‘Too Tough to Tame.’ He was one of several that picked up a famous ‘Darlington Stripe’ throughout the 200-mile distance. Gilliland was one of several that did not run a throwback during NASCAR’s Throwback weekend.
The seventh-place finish was the ninth top-10 for Gilliland this season. It was also the 35th of his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series career.
The top-10 finish kept Gilliland 10th in the points standings, 157 behind leader Austin Hill. He holds the final spot in the Playoffs with a 10-point cushion over Derek Kraus.
Luckily for Gilliland, Kraus fell short of the victory and finished runner-up. Had the rookie-of-the-year contender won, Gilliland would have been bumped out of the Playoff picture heading into the regular season finale at Richmond Raceway.
Photo by NKP / NKP Photo